We Who Are Your Closest Friends

- 1943-
we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective

The Last Slow Days of Summer

"BE YOUR OWN MASTER!" says the Vedanta Society sign. 
Why not?…In the park
Some clouds roll over me like Greenland on a map. 
If I wanted to I could imagine I was flying over
The Greenland coast and gazing down at the white fjords. 
Instead I'm lying on the grass, listening to city sounds. 
They come to me in three-dimensional form,
Like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Baby carriages squeak 
Near the middle. Cars humming through Central Park, 
Somewhere near the back of the loaf.
What sound would be the end-piece, the round brown sliver? 
The unzipping of airline bags.
Or a glove thwacked
By a rookie pitcher who falls apart
In the eighth inning. The manager takes the ball silently, 
Like a man who has eaten a full loaf of bread
And has a stomach pain. Don't glamorize silence.
There is nothing profound about quiet, it is usually 
Only the universe holding its stomach.
Delmore Schwartz must have been a great talker. 
They say he put most of his talent into his life
But I don't know, I think his prose is pretty great; 
He made a better storywriter than a poet.
I could write a thousand-page biography
Propounding that stance, and interview all the old rummy 
Critics who are powerful now; 
They would let their hair down about Delmore,
And the final crackup.
The reason I'm thinking of Delmore Schwartz is that 
He wrote a poem about city parks. And it wasn't that successful,
It went on for about twelve pages, but I admired him 
For writing a poem with so little point,
And so much prosy description. I think he was trying to 
Eulogize normal middle-class happiness on a Sunday afternoon,
And how he felt out of it. But that wouldn't have 
Taken twelve pages…He was probably being ironic 
About the people's happiness, and secretly thought 
They weren't happy. He wrote it about the same time 
Robert Moses was carving out his parks empire
By forcing the Long Island millionaires to give up their privacy 
So that the middle class could get to the beach.
Of course it was also supposed to benefit
The poor slum-dwellers, but how many of them 
Ever made it to Sunken Meadows?
Or Jones Beach?
What's strange about parks—innocent greenery—
Is that no one ever suspected them to ruin New York. 
Yet what finally gutted the city were the parkways 
Moses built, slashed through all five boroughs 
Quiet lower-middle-class neighborhoods bulldozed 
For cars to get to the picnic grounds faster,
Or the Hamptons—
A life of paperwork capped by a summer home.
But I can't blame them: I'd like a summer home myself! 
I don't really believe New York is dying, no more than 
The universe is dying. I have no stake in seeing
This poem end pessimistically.
I'd like to leave people with a good feeling.
Robert Moses, Delmore Schwartz.
Two ambitious Jews, like myself.
They tried to be their own masters…
It's hard to imagine New York going under 
On a slow summer day like today
Without even a loud noise to mark it
Like the Empire State Building keeling over 
And everyone running to the scene of default.
The helicopters will be standing by, 
Ready to take us to Greenland.
A special airlift for poetic men of letters,
A jumbo Boeing crammed to the teeth, 
And you can't get in if your name isn't 
Listed in Poets and Writers Directory. 
"So long, New York School of Poets!" 
I'll stay behind, tending the weeds
And sleeping in deserted Central Park.
Soon I'll be hearing about the Godthaab School:
Their seemingly infinite talent for "chatty brilliance," 
Buddhism, and marathon readings.
I'll shake my head and sigh: What are 
Anne and Michael doing now?
How was this year's big Halloween party,
Or do they even celebrate Halloween in Greenland?
Maybe they're into solstice holidays, like Midsummer Night.


In 200 years they won't remember me, Salvador
And they won't remember you, so let's skip the part about
He will live with us forever.
You may get a footnote for being the only Marxist
To gain power in Latin America via parliamentary means;
And the only sucker not to throw his enemies in jail.
You knew the power of the large land-owners, ITT,
The Army, U.S. Anaconda, the small frightened businessmen
Easily manipulated, the shop-owners who could go either way
And yet you didn't lift a finger to silence them.
You continued to defend the bicameral system of government
Until they bombed your palace and you shot yourself in the mouth.
Answer me this,
Now that you are a bunch of hairs on a blood-stained sofa:
I want to know why you killed yourself.
Because this was a very un-Marxist thing to do.
Because neither was this the way of a gradualist
With short graying hair and glasses,
     and a face like a prominent surgeon's,
Who, knowing this would happen, could have easily arranged for
The secret tunnel, the private plane, the unmarked car
In which you, huddled in grandmotherly wig, might begin
To write your memoirs. Was it too horrible to think of
Speaking at New York rallies to pockets of émigrés,
Forming shadow cabinets, and lunching with Juan Bosch
Or Andreas Papandreou, swapping stories over wine about
Where you were when the shit hit the fan?
I'm being vulgar, forgive me.
I would rather believe in your doggish retreat
Than the flamboyance of today's headlines which gloat:
Even they are a little unsure. They leave room
     for the graduate students
Of the left, working in the carrels of libraries
For 100 years to discover the link,
The way it all fits together: Lumumba, King, Kennedy,
     Allende, CIA.

And it may turn out that my government actually murdered you
But what's the good of knowing that?
We know too many connections already, and they only satisfy
The pedantic urge that makes the world a crossword puzzle.
Salvador, I'm sorry, I don't know what to say any more.
Take back the bullet, it was a mistake, it redeems nothing.

Today I look at the faces of passers-by and I think:
It figures. The banks have the money to buy counter-
This wino has no money. He's nice enough, so is
That girl in the flamingo summer dress on wobbly heels.
It's September 12, possibly the prettiest day of the year.
The blue has never been so pure around the chimneys—
"Almost like—a cartoon!" says the dental hygienist,
Grasping for a metaphor. I never said it even to myself,
Before today, but just between you and me,
And I don't want anyone else to hear: Senor.
It looks as if they have got us by the balls.
These faces in the street, how can they take power?
How can they rule?

Snowball Journal

to Carol

Our room, says the lady of the house
is nicer than one in a motel
                              and she's right
second-storey bay windows
a mushy double bed T.V.
and sportsman and gun magazines


We'll take it
But not the meal plan.


It turns out she is an alcoholic


Those circular curtain rods
are a nice personal touch
she must have put a lot of work
                              into this house...
we settle down to make love
on a chair
the dependable thrill of foreign rooms, positions
                              violating good people's rugs


I stroke your legs and breasts as you straddle me


We bring out the Polaroid
take pictures of our bodies relaxed
Just lean against the radiator, your back to the sun
a smile of bones dissolving
          I squeeze the knob until it says YES


But you always manage
to take three more pictures of me
than I do of you


We must take a stroll in the woods before the sun goes down
you slip out while I am reading
          and drive to the country store
          bringing back Vermont cheese,
          bread for sandwiches, Utica beer
          and Tasty Cups
          For this I love you

you even get undressed again
so we can both snack in bed
with the crumbs falling between us


We'll never see Vermont this way
up and dressed for our 5 o'clock walk—
the hills above us make us laugh
they're all so pretty!
          and we don't laugh that easily

                    with my arm around your waist
                    it seems child's play to live with you
                    breathe in the electric air
                    what has happened to all our demands
                    don't even think about them
                              if you kiss my left ear lobe
                              and lick the other one
                              I'll be as happy as


The sun is dying on the sharp points of the tree-tops
not just disappearing
soon we'll have to go back to the car, it's
getting cold


I can't resist—I surprise you with a snowball
                    The snow dribbles onto your
                              bare breasts
now you have ‘snowy breasts'


Dinner is delicious! We compliment each other
for walking out of that expensive Auberge down the road
and saying no to The Reluctant Panther
This one is moderate but certainly as good as the others!
We listen with delight as people in the next room
                    are being turned away

          Thank goodness we made our reservations just in time!

‘Try the banana-loaf bread'
     ‘I can't believe these lamb chops!'
          greasing our teeth and fingers into the bone

Families of skiers clomp into the dining room
study menus, talking about the slopes
Most have fat asses and need the exercise
But they are ordering everything! lobster with roast beef
          and pie
What could be more fun than eating! they cry
a hearty meal after a long day outdoors
is justice.

          Mother and daughter look-alikes
          That girl could be pretty if she lost fifteen pounds
          Now you know what she'll be like at forty.


At night you fall asleep
and I stay up to read
                    nothing on television


The next day—clouds, a little somber
we wake up leisurely
and dawdle over breakfast in the trucker's diner
          you seem apprehensive
while I play record after record on the jukebox
that morning you came into our room
I was stretched across the double-bed
"Guess what?" you announced—beaming, dramatic—
"I started my period."

          Now you're having second thoughts about it?

          Very well, an honest discussion
                    let's take stock of our lives
                    by all means, say
                    what's on your mind...
                    this too is part of vacations


We have found a woods that is really private
Fresh-cut lumber, a carrot smell—
on the ground wood shavings, snow, pine cones
          and animal tracks (deer hooves)
I want to go where it's completely hooded
away from the trail
live like an animal between the spaces of trees

          you are afraid that the ice will crack
          you would go, you say, if you had better boots

                    a difference of opinion

We sit cautiously on a pile of snow
What, are you shivering?
like a maniac I reach into your pants
                    with chilling fingers
so that you will be warmer
                    and you shudder
                    at the cheap power I have over you
                    to make you sigh


The good mood regained


Looking at the Green Mountains from a roadside promontory
Peru, Vermont—
          The Woman Thinks:

          This is a place to raise children
          live correctly
          come to peace with myself

          The Man Thinks:

          perfect landscape
          of mountains, firs and snow
          I toss a snowball into the purest fields
          to see if this is a beauty that mars easily
          or deserves my worship

18. Coda

When we were standing before the mountains
the sun leaking pools on the snowy fields
the hard quiet of the barn and the owner's house
the watchdog's bark
sky so intense we could only look through a crack in our lids
and yet everything was blue—

how little I've been able to take with me
back one week in the city